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Apr 28
2016

Excessive Optimism

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

I’ve worked with a number of organizations that struggle financially. In most cases customers are departing, sales are down and income continues to drop. Some business owners seem to think that if they just keep doing the same activities but work them harder, everything will turn around. My experience in most instances where a business is stressed or in decline is that they need different strategies to turn the business around.

 

The business owner who exhibits nothing but a blind optimism is generally headed for serious trouble. I encourage these business owners to carefully identify what it is working in the business. By that I mean, what brings in customers and what does not.
 
One example was “Tom” who had a carpet cleaning business. He advertised in the local paper, sent out ads with a coupon mailing service, used door hangers and utilized some direct mail. However, Tom’s sales were disappointing. I asked him if knew which advertisements brought sales and which did not. He didn’t know. I advised him to put a coupon with a special discount offer which would allow him to identify the difference between successful ads and unsuccessful ones. The newspaper ad was the most costly expense and produced the lowest response. Cutting that ad quickly saved money. When the results of customer response came in, the coupon service turned out to be the most effective. Tom redirected the newspaper money into more coupon advertising and the results were encouraging.
 
Initially Tom was reluctant to stop the newspaper ad because he felt everybody advertised in the paper.  I suggested he target property management companies because they needed carpets cleaned when tenants moved out of properties they manage. He could offer a discount for the first service as well as demonstrate how well he can do the work.
 
A number of times I have encountered a business leader who says he just needs to pray more for business success. While prayer is always a good thing, the more focused and open the prayer is; the more it allows the Lord and others to show which path is more effective.
 
I remember “Anna” who prayed fervently for more business. I encouraged her to expand her prayer to ask the Lord to specifically show her where her business was falling short and to show her the different steps she could take to gain more customers. I suggested a specific prayer focus. She could ask the Lord to show her the customers she should serve, how to present her service, and how to follow through to get more customer commitments.
 
Initially Anna was overly optimistic and felt that in time she would just get the customers she needed. I pointed out that within six months she would be out of capital and be forced to close the business with little or no savings. I explained this was not a time for excessive optimism but a time to address business issues with a definite sense of urgency.
 
In one situation I recommended specific steps including a marketing plan, improved customer service, and ways to reduce expenses. For each of the steps I suggested a specific prayer focus. As part of these prayers I also encouraged her to petition the Lord to show her if any of these steps were not the right ones to take. Anna went from her overly optimistic attitude that “everything would be okay” to making specific changes. As the changes took effect, she moved from being close to losing her business to showing a reasonable profit.
 
We see an example from scripture when “about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them.” (Joshua 7:4-5, NIV) In this instance Joshua just didn’t send additional troops to attack the enemy before he sought the Lord’s wisdom. When he followed the Lord’s direction, he won a significant victory. (See Joshua chapters 7 and 8.)
 
Optimism is a good trait. However, excessive optimism in the face of consistently bad news is not helpful. Seek wise counsel; think through changes that need to be made and make them.  Then you will have results you can be rightly optimistic about.
 

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